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The Writer’s Block Paradox

By Keegan Waller

When you ask writers how they get past writer’s block, in my experience people fall in to one of two camps. They either say to 1) just push past it and keep writing, even if the words you put on the page are nonsense, gibberish, and below your personal standard, or 2) just quit writing for a while. Quit even thinking about writing and go do something else.

Both strategies have their merits, but personally, I fall firmly into camp two. It seems strange that not writing would be the best way to start writing, but for me, it works. My writing process consists of short bursts of inspiration where the words come quickly followed by long periods of stepping away for a while and even longer periods of editing. I have never been the type of writer who can force things or sit and stare at that blinking cursor for hours. When nothing is coming to me, I go take my dog for a hike, or play chess, or try (usually unsuccessfully) to get my 40-year-old Suzuki GN400 to run. Usually, while my mind is occupied by something else, my thoughts eventually wander back to whatever piece I’m working on.

I find that when I don’t try to force the words to come, eventually they do. That’s something I’ve had to remind myself this past year, especially when it seems like all the advice and inspiration posts on the internet for writers say that we should be taking advantage of all the extra time we supposedly have during the pandemic. Your own experience may vary, and if you have a strategy that works for writer’s block, that’s great. But for me, sometimes a break is exactly what I need.

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